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From Westgate hero to extortion suspect

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Harish Patel, a member of a group known as the Krishna Squad, was returning home to Parklands, Nairobi, after spending the morning volunteering at a Hindu crematorium when he received a distress call.

Gunshots had been reported at Nakumatt Supermarket, Westgate Mall, and the shooting was still going on.

He was less than a minute away, so he immediately turned around and sped to the mall, one hand on the steering wheel, the other holding his pistol.

That was the story Mr Patel, then 43, told the Nation a few days after the 2013 Westgate attack. Also known by the alias Harish Daria and by his real name Hirji Ramji, Mr Patel is well known in the Indian community in Nairobi’s Westlands and Parklands.

LICENSED GUN OWNER

During the Westgate attack, the man who once described himself as a Jack-of-all-trades, was instrumental in rescuing hundreds of people from the mall, courtesy of his membership of the Krishna Squad, a vigilante group comprising licensed gun owners.

The most famous member of the squad, though, is Mr Patel, one of the Westgate heroes.

patel

Harish Patel in action during the Westgate Mall attack in 2013. On n Saturday, DCI detectives arrested him after one Prashkumar Keshavji Dodhia accused him of attempting to extort Sh10 million from him in order to sort out an assault case. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

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Almost every media outlet interviewed him after the incident.

There is even a photo of him in action at the mall clutching his 0.75mm Taurus pistol taken by Reuters that was widely published.

“This is my country. These are my people,” he told the Nation after the attack.

“At that moment it did not matter whether they were Asian, African, White or Kenyan; you are in our country, and we have to look after you.”

MILITARY JACKET

“Our mission was to get them or die trying. We were ready to die,” Mr Patel said. “We weren’t trying to be heroes, we were only trying to save lives. I feel proud that I saved lives.”

Then, on Saturday, detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) arrested Mr Patel after one Prashkumar Keshavji Dodhia accused him of attempting to extort Sh10 million from him in order to sort out an assault case.

During his arrest, he was found with a military smoke jacket, a pair of handcuffs serial number 877034, a bulletproof vest, a Ceska pistol, 27 rounds of ammunition, two empty magazines, walkie talkies and 25 rolls of bhang.

When he appeared before Senior Principal Magistrate Kennedy Cheruiyot in Nairobi on Monday, Mr Patel denied all the four counts of extortion he was facing and being in possession of government items and narcotic drugs. He was released on bail despite the prosecution’s opposition to the move.

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“The prosecution has not offered compelling reasons to warrant the accused’s bail denial,” Mr Cheruiyot ruled.

EXTORTION

What is surprising, as Mr Patel prepares his defence, is how a person widely admired for his heroic deeds during the Westgate attack is now being accused of extortion.

Responses to a tweet by the DCI announcing his arrest also suggest that there could be more to his arrest than what is in the public domain.

“Following completion of an inquiry on one Hirji Ramji Patel alias Harish Daria and consequent consultations with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Gigiri detectives have arrested the said suspect at Parklands in Nairobi, in whose possession assorted recoveries were also made,” said the DCI following Mr Patel’s arrest.

And while it is now up to the court to determine whether Mr Harish is guilty or not, the fact that he is a well-known member of the Asian community on security matters is raising questions.

Apart from responding to security incidents in Parklands, the Krishna Squad describes itself as a self-help organisation, which donates food in Nairobi slums and also volunteers at the Hindu crematorium in Kariakor.

COMMUNITY POLICING

During Prof Wangari Maathai’s funeral in 2011, Mr Patel was part of the team that cremated the Nobel laureate.

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And in Westlands and Parklands, those who know Mr Patel say he has been working with the police as a member of the area’s community policing team.

Others say he could be an informer, a private investigator or a police reservist since he is always seen in the company of officers.

Also known as Eagle One in Parklands, Mr Patel has on several occasions been seen at crime scenes with officers, or controlling traffic in the evening.

“There is no businessman who does not know Harish. The police, too, should not say they have never worked with him, especially those from the Parklands Police Station, because he is the link between them and the community,” said Mr Narendra Lalji, a businessman in Westlands.

LOOSE RELATIONS

While it’s not clear what Mr Patel’s engagement with the police is, relations between law enforcement agencies and civilians who work with them are always loose, one-sided and don’t always end well.

Last year, the DCI ordered the arrest of Ms Jane Mugo, the chief executive of Trimo Security Ltd, saying she was wanted for robbery with violence, impersonation and threatening to kill. Like Mr Patel, Ms Mugo is well known in media circles.

By Nation.co.ke

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Lifestyle

Mutula Kilonzo:The Last Moments

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Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo woke up in high spirits on Thursday April 26, 2013.

According to his wife Cyrose Nduku, the senator had a shower, took breakfast and bid her bye.

The lawmaker called around 6pm to inform her that he had arrived at his Kwa Kyelu Ranch.

 “He sounded well and even joked,” said Nduku, who got married to Mr Kilonzo in 1982 after his divorce.

She was called the following day and informed that her husband had fallen ill.

Mr Kilonzo’s personal assistant Stella Mutheu said the senator passed by the office that day and that he went through paperwork and signed some letters before leaving between 10 and 11am.

She went home, only to receive the news of his death the following day.

Ms Mutheu, who had been Mr Kilonzo’s PA for 10 years, said he had on several occasions complained of tiredness, attributing it to the gruelling political campaigns. Elections had been held the previous month.

Election victory

Mr Kilonzo’s cook – Kelly Mutua – prepared a meal of maize, beans and meat mixed with vegetables, peas and potatoes.

The senator’s son Mutula Kilonzo Jr said his father sent him a text that night over a petition contesting his election victory.

At 11am the following day, the lawmaker was found dead in his bed by his workers.

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A government report later showed he died of massive bleeding caused by high blood pressure.

A report conducted by several experts said the senator had taken the drug Ephedrine (pseudoephedrine) with Pepsi drink.

Doctors told Senior Resident Magistrate B Bartoo that the drug is a decongestant and is also used as an anaesthesia during surgery.

The drug, the inquest was told, is used by a person with low blood pressure to stimulate heartbeat.

The effects can, however, be fatal as it can cause high blood pressure, especially if combined with caffeine.

The news of the senator’s death sparked suspicion, with many saying he had been killed.

Mr Kilonzo Jr, who became senator, said his father had received threatening messages countless times.

Some of the messages were from a woman identified as Nduku, he said.

But Ms Nduku told the inquest that her relation with Mr Kilonzo’s other children was not good.

She admitted that her husband feared for his life and had received three threatening messages, but he never reported the matter to police.

She also talked of a threatening letter sent to a school in Mbooni.

The letter reportedly contained some powder and some writing in red stating: “Mutula, breathe your last”.

Samples collected from Mr Kilonzo Sr’s home were taken for analysis.

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The samples were from the leftover food, half a pack of Del Monte juice, an empty can of Pepsi and several water bottles.

Also taken for sampling were vomit found in the bathroom and pellets in a drawer.

Drank water

Though the results confirmed that he drank water and the beverage, the juice was consumed by another person.

The body was taken to Lee Funeral Home, where a postmortem was carried out by Dr Andrew Gachie, Dr Johansen Oduor, Prof Ian Calder from UK, Dr Emily Rogena, Dr Luke Musau and Dr Symon Mwangi Watene.

Drs Oduor, Rogena and Gachie dismissed reports of a cover-up, maintaining that the drug taken with Pepsi triggered the death.

The Pepsi drink, they said, enhances the stimulation effect of pseudoephedrine.

Prof Calder said he would do a toxicology test. In November of the same year, he sent Mr Kilonzo Jr an email described by the latter as disturbing.

According to the lawmaker, the pathologist said he would only sign his final report if he received sealed samples for analysis.

Mr Kilonzo Jr said he suspected foul play because there was no explanation as to why the samples remained at Nairobi Hospital for nine days.

He added that his father received a threat in February 2013 and withdrew a case against “Nduku”.

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He said the woman sent a message, saying she would eliminate him and his children. But he added that the phone might have been used by persons other than Nduku.

The magistrate dismissed claims of a cover-up, especially because Prof Calder did not testify or send a report alluding to interference with the samples.

Dedicated public servant

 “It is sad that we lost a dedicated public servant in the manner as it may. I have evaluated the evidence and I am in agreement with the State that there is no evidence pointing to any person (s) having a hand in the death of Senator Mutula Kilonzo,” the court ruled.

Mwangi, who was the first doctor to arrive at the ranch, said he was attending a conference at Maanzoni Lodge when he was called to an emergency.

Dr Mwangi said a bloody discharge was flowing from the senator’s mouth and nose.

He found that he was not breathing and there was no pulse. He then broke the news to the family and workers. He said the senator died around 9.50am.

He added that there was no evidence of a struggle and he immediately organised collection of the food samples.

By Nation.co.ke

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Lifestyle

From troubled childhood, Kenyan-American eyes top seat in Minnesota

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Mr Boni Njenga, a Kenyan-American born in Nakuru Town, has risen from a boy with a troubled childhood to a man with an interest in an elective post in the US, come the elections on November 3.

Mr Njenga’s mother sent him to the US in 2003 to keep him away from bad peer influence after his high school education.

The single mother of six was concerned about the future of her troublesome son who attended four secondary schools.

He attended D.N Handa Secondary School in Naivasha for his Form One, moved to Coulson Secondary School in Gilgil the following year and then transferred to Kalou Secondary School in Ol Kalou for Form Two and Form Three.

He returned to D. N Handa where he sat his O’level exams.

He passed his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams but his mother worried about the effects peer pressure would have on him.

“My mother was concerned about my discipline. I was giving her a difficult time due to bad influence from my peers,” he says.

“To save me from engaging in drug abuse and crime, she decided to send me to the United States of America to live with my brothers. I arrived in the US with a near-empty suitcase and $50 as pocket money.”

Today, Mr Njenga, an American citizen with a Master’s degree in Public Administration, is seeking to become the first Kenyan-American to sit as a commissioner in one of the county boards in the US.

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He will vie for a position in the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners, District 5 (Bloomington, Richfield and Eden Prairie).

“We are facing challenges like the Opioid crisis, homelessness, lack of public safety, racial disparities and tax levy increases with no accountability and transparency on spending,” he says.

Campaign focus

Mr Njenga has lived and worked in Hennepin County for the last nine years.

Being a policy analyst, he says his campaigns are focused on five key areas – creating community wealth, closing achievement gaps, children protective services, safe and affordable housing and improving the quality of life for all residents.

“We can only solve these issues with fresh and bold 21st century governance and by applying evidence-based policy making, which will enable us to curb wasteful spending in Hennepin County, keeping more money in your pocket,” he says.

“I want to advocate for the rights of all residents. Today’s challenges require more than a single approach. They require fresh ideas, action and strong advocacy.”

Mr Njenga is challenging first term incumbent Debbie Goettel, whom he acknowledges as a formidable opponent but adds that he is up to the task.

Hennepin is Minnesota’s largest county with an annual budget of $2.5 billion that is overseen by a seven-member board of commissioners.

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Mr Njenga criticises the county’s dismal record when it comes to contracting minority entrepreneurs and says one of his desires is to create community wealth, informed by the challenges marginalised communities face.

“Hennepin County, with its millions of dollars, spends less than one per cent in contracting the minority groups,” he says.

“I want to bring a 21st century approach to policy making,” adds Mr Njenga who has previously pushed for opportunities for marginalised groups.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Njenga has been forced to run his campaigns on social media platforms.

“I reach out to voters through my Facebook page (Boni Njenga), my website (www.boninjenga.com) and Twitter account(@Boninjenga). It is not easy but the circumstances have forced us to keep social distancing.”

Experience

After moving to the US in 2003, Mr Njenga joined Minnesota State University-Mankato from where he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and later a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

He has held supervisory and project management roles with the State before joining the private sector.

He says this background will enable him to offer ideas and innovative approaches for creating sustainable jobs and economic security.

“It will be quite an honour if residents of District 5 give me a chance to serve them and give back to the community that gave me a home and accepted me years ago.

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“I have always had the passion for public service and politics. I value the quote by former US President J.F. Kennedy – ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your county’.”

He adds, “I came here as a young confused man, unsure of what the future held for me, but through focus, hard work and mentorship by my lecturers, I can look back and thank my mother for sending me here. I know she is proud of me.

“My mother instilled in me discipline and the value of service to the people. Minnesota gave me an elite education and job experience and I have come to call it home. It will be an honour to serve Minnesota.”

Mr Njenga joins the long list of Africans seeking elective posts in Minnesota since the election of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar to the Minnesota Legislature in 2016, and to the US House of Representatives  two years later.

She is the first black person born in Africa to be elected to the US Congress and is the highest ranking elected African immigrant politician in the State.

by nation.co.ke

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Here is why people think I am gay, Kenyan woman opens up

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The Kenyan woman had been rumored to be a lesbian for a long time but no one was quite sure whether that was indeed true.

Not that being gay ia an unusual or a new thing. However, a lot of eyebrows are still being raised when it comes to the issue perhaps because homosexuality is considered an illegal activity in Kenya

Sometime in October 2017 Patricia Kihoro was rumored to have been caught pants down in a lesbian threesome with some other Kenyan women.

But now the Popular Vlogger, actress and singer says her efforts to keep her love life private was the sole reason that led to speculations that she was lesbian.

At the time, it was reported that Kihoro was in a relationship with a well-known female Kenyan rapper and as well as another female media personality.

But the 34-year-old says she has always dated men but kept her relationships low key, which explains why people started speculating she was playing for the other ‘team’.

DATING MEN

“For the longest time, I was dating men. If you go through my Instagram over the years I didn’t even hide. I would post people but it wasn’t like lovey-dovey stuff, if you were keen you would see who I was dating at the time. I would post them in the context that this is somebody in my life but I wouldn’t reveal in what way they are in my life. I think of how private I kept that side of my life, people then speculate, start to make up things,” Kihoro said.

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Kihoro shot into the limelight back in 2009 when she took part in the singing competition Tusker Project Fame 3 where she was among the finalists.

She later landed a job as a presenter for Homeboyz Radio and also ventured into acting. Over the years she has also been a very active YouTube vlogger and brand influencer.

“I have been accused of being a lesbian but first of all, it is not an accusation, because calling me a lesbian is not an insult as I have met wonderful human beings who are homosexual and are far better than people who have stood in certain standards of judging others.

So that is why I never speak about it. I am who I am, you know! I know what I stand for and my family knows what I stand for,” said Patricia.

Patricia further revealed that her mother has been very supportive of her work and opinion. She reveals that her first interaction with gay people was courtesy of her mother.

“My mother has supported my work from the start and she always respects my opinion. The first people I ever met who were openly gay were friends of my mum. I was probably 16 years and she didn’t make a big deal about it, and therefore I also did not learn that was a big deal,” revealed Patricia.

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